Learning to Read
...The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. As I read and contemplated the subject, behold! that very discontentment which [my master] had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish. As I writhed under it, I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy… I have often wished myself a beast… Any thing, no matter what, to get rid of thinking!...
African American abolitionist, orator, journalist, and memoirist. Born a slave in Maryland, Douglass learned at a young age how to read and write, a remarkable feat since it was against the law to teach literacy to a slave. In 1836 he escaped from his master and fled to the North with Anna Murray, a free black woman, whom he later married. Douglass soon became an important orator in the abolitionist movement and, with the publication of his first autobiography, A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), an international spokesman for freedom. Douglass founded the antislavery newspaper the North Star in 1847 and actively recruited black soldiers to join the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War. He continued his autobiography in My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881, rev. 1892). See also memory.loc.gov/ammem/doughtml.